Leena Minifie is the editor of Ricochet’s Indigenous Reporting Fund and a member of our English Editorial Board. Here she explains the fund and the importance of promoting Indigenous voices within the media.
Ricochet was started with a simple goal — to cover stories that were lacking attention and most importantly, depth, in mainstream outlets across this continent.
Dedicating significant financial resources to reporting on Indigenous issues is an essential part of creating a more democratic media landscape in Canada. To this end, we have created the Indigenous Reporting Fund, which will prioritize support for Indigenous journalists undertaking investigative reporting projects.
The fund will support in-depth reporting and complement the regular news and opinion articles we publish, but it will not not be the only Indigenous content you will read in Ricochet. Instead, it will beef up that content and ensure we are investing the necessary resources in telling the stories no one else is telling.
Even in 2014, many journalists are ill equipped to handle analysis of the political landscape or the complex history of Indigenous peoples’ rights, title and land issues. This is through no fault of their own, as the public school system and journalism schools do not present these issues in an in-depth manner in their curricula except in Indigenous or Aboriginal studies.
Seven dedicated investigative journalists and producers currently work at APTN, the national Aboriginal news broadcaster in Canada. Six journalists and producers work for CBC Aboriginal News Online, following the push for better analysis of Indigenous issues due to Idle No More. No Aboriginal journalists work in CBC’s investigative reporting unit, and because of funding cuts by the current federal government, the investigative abilities of most departments are eroding, not growing.
At the Tyee, there are general fellowships for journalists, including those that cover Aboriginal affairs, made possible through special fellowship funds. CanWest Global has one internship placement in broadcasting for Aboriginal students still in J-school, or freshly graduated, and this is no guarantee they will report on Indigenous issues.
For a country of over 630 First Nations, representing over 1.4 million Indigenous people, 14 dedicated journalists to research, investigate and report in-depth news stories is not enough. The Indigenous Reporting Fund at Ricochet will prioritize the research and writing of Indigenous journalists. Ricochet has built its foundation to allow reporters the time, the independence and the focus needed for the sort of hard news stories that come with experience and skill.
In addition to the investigative work of the fund, we will also debut a weekly opinion column on Indigenous issues. Shared between four to five writers from different nations, we will aim to cover underreported Indigenous stories from coast to coast to coast.
Ricochet is dedicated to illuminating voices which go underrepresented in the mainstream media, and paying contributors a fair rate. We will prioritize pitches from Indigenous reporters, but we will also accept story ideas from experienced journalists who know the issues. If you have an idea or story, send a 200-word pitch to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “Indigenous Reporting Fund” in the subject, or cc: email@example.com.
You can contribute financially at any time to the Indigenous Reporting Fund by marking your donation with the initials “IRF.” Ricochet will also hold a dedicated crowdfunding campaign to raise the funds we need to support Indigenous investigative journalism, an inherently expensive endeavour. We have already raised over $8,000 in dedicated funds as part of our initial crowdfunding campaign, which is funding our current coverage.
With your support, we look forward to building our Indigenous Reporting Fund into a hub for Indigenous reporting and writing, one that provides talented journalists with the funding and freedom they need. Whether we succeed depends on you.